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Category: Flowers and Plants

Annual, perennial and interesting flowers with advice on culture, information, tips and recommended varieties

Genome of a Garden Gnome

Genome of a Garden Gnome

Book Cover

I am not against garden gnomes, they can brighten up your mood and dark wintery days. From a gardeners view I offer the following comments.

  • Use gnomes for friends family and your own pleasure and amusement.
  • I don’t take gnomes too seriously and have just a couple to keep one another company.
  • Large families of gnomes seem better if you have the space.  The weeds of a gnomery are other frivolous ornaments and I stay clear of them particularly fairies, witches and elves.
  • You can name you gnome three times with a personal name, a clan name, and a nickname.  The picture is Mumple chops the fourth from the clan  gardenfoot with the nickname hortoris.
  • Keep your gnome clean and they will live in your garden without needing special fertiliser or pruning
A Tykes Greenhouse

A Tykes Greenhouse

Maximising Useful Space

  • During spring the space in your greenhouse is at a premium. We all have our own ways of using the opportunities and here are some of my ideas and Yorkshire experiences.
  • My glasshouse is the standard aluminium roof-span type. I aspire to a dutch type with sloping sides and bigger panes but they restrict tall plants near the glass. I’m too traditional to opt for an octagonal or dome shape and they rely on shelving for more space.
  • My past attempts with mini greenhouses and plastic constructions have been frustrating and are usually abandoned.
  • I have just got around to placing concrete flags under the staging – previously it was bare soil but seldom used for growing. Now I store dry goods that are regularly needed and small gizzmos and fixers. Now I don’t need to resort to the hut or garage every time I need something (time is as valuable as space).
  • The central path has long been flagged for 80% of the length so the growing area is ‘U’ shaped.
  • I use all internal central path for pots and trays on an interim basis. I also have some flags outside the door for moving plants out for short periods and hardening off.
  • I have a permanent wooden stage the length of one side and a temporary, portable aluminium stage that fit across the far end.
  • My aluminium frames have a central channel where a moveable support can be fixed for bubble wrap screening or light string support. I also string from the roof for tomatoes.
  • Wires or washing line is strung across some areas affixed to the frame to support growing plants. Pegs are used for several purposes.

Maximising Crops my way

  • My favourite flowering crops are auriculas and cyclamen that are ready to go outside before other plants need the space.
  • If I prick out too many plants into pots I need to ration myself as space becomes tight for a couple of weeks
  • I have had good results growing first earlies in potato sacks as long as I protect from hard frost and earth up by topping up the bag. They go outside when I need the space as the frost is virtually done.
  • Once seedlings are planted out I grow tumbler tomatoes in pots on the top of the bench and previously a courgette or two under the bench but they eventually gets in the way.
  • I grow tomatoes using a type of ring culture augmented by a hydroponic trough of nutrient and some wicking see below
  • Chrysanthemum follow tomatoes started off in front of the trough
  • Catch crops of lettuce and other salads get stuck in where I can.
  • Through winter I raise pots of early bulbs particularly hyacinths

Other Greenhouse Observations

  • The foundations are 99% perfect but I would strive for perfection if starting again. I would also build a ramp up to the threshold.
  • The only growth nearby is a plum tree on the north side but there is no overhang and the light is good.
  • I need to shade it with cool-glass paint as the sun gets stronger. A tip is to paint the shading on the inside, it is easier to reach and wash off. Outside the coolglass tends to adhere to mucky glass .
  • I never invested in blinds or shades. I also use scrim, muslin or horticultural fleece as a temporary covering if needed.
  • I use small flags to retain deeper soil where I want it. (see front right)

Tomato Trough before ring pots are put on top

Commonsense Apple Trees

Commonsense Apple Trees

Basic Facts

  • There are many thousands of apple tree varieties (7500+)
  • Apple trees can live for more than 30 years
  • Apple trees fruit better if they are pollinated from another variety (two more varieties for some apples).
  • Trees need a balance of roots, new wood and leaves to perform well on fruit production.
  • Most trees are grafted on to a special stock (not grown from pips). This determines the size of the tree.

So how to use this Information

  • Think about the apple(s) you want and the conditions in your garden.  Match your choice from information about specific varieties. Soil conditions geographic location and other knowledge is available from  specialists, a quality nursery or the RHS fruit group.
  • Buy with care bearing in mind the tree is their to last. Give it space and appropriate soil conditions as the tree will want air and light as well as sustenance.
  • Pruning stimulates new growth, do it between winter to early March. Train tree to shape before serious pruning and do not over prune in any one year.

Other Commonsense Comments

  • Apples can be grown in pots. Choose a large one that will be stable and hold moisture and feed weekly from July to September.
  • Protect the roots of pot grown apples from drying out caused by sunshine on the pot.
  • I am not keen on the use of chemical ‘icides on fruit but rely on a clean environment and early removal of problems. I will add sulphate of ammonia to increase vigour or potash to help fruit production.
  • When staking a tree ensure the trunk isn’t damaged or rubbed.
  • Apples can be stored for 4-6 months and should be left on the tree as long as possible ie November in many cases
  • Apples are ripe when the pips have turned black and should come off the tree with a gentle twist.
Brussels Sprout Commitment with TLC

Brussels Sprout Commitment with TLC

I have found a new commitment to growing and eating Brussels sprouts. From 3 or 4 plants last year I ate several hearty meals including a socially distanced Christmas (not because of any sprout side effects). I treated the plants in a cavalier manner and wonder how much better they would be with a bit of tender loving care.

Reasons for my new Commitment

  • The plants do not take up as much space as other brassica crops when compared to the volume of food produced.
  • My soil is fertile and free of most diseases (famous last words.) It also hold plants firmly in the ground a feature I am informed helps sprouts.
  • In march I will sow last years seed of Evesham Special but also try find some F1 plants of early (maximus), mid (Diablo) and late (Revenge) season favorites.

Tender Loving Care

  • This year I will  draw up more soil round the stem in summer to reduce staking and provide support. (Evesham only grow 2 feet high)
  • Early sowing produces the best plants so I should get a move on. It is one draw back that plants grow for 12 months of the year but don’t need too much attention.
  • I have a lot of local pigeons but did not suffered any attack on young shoots last year. I still keep some chicken wire temporary fencing handy should the need arise.
  • This year after potting-on I will give a weekly liquid feed.
  • Watering well in summer will provide an opportunity to boost with a nitrogen-rich feed.
  • Whilst I try to minimise insecticides I will resort to them if caterpillars and white fly start to over power the crop.

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Feed Raspberries to Feed You

Feed Raspberries to Feed You

You do not need to give your raspberries five a day for them to supply you with at least one portion a day of your fruit and vegetables. However feed your canes and treat your hungry raspberries right with these tips.

Good Food Guide for Raspberries.

  • Feed with a general fertiliser containing nitrogen for leafy growth, phosphorus for roots and shoot and potassium for for flowers and fruit. Growmore suits me but Phostrogen, Chempak of Vitax Q4 will do a similar job.
  • If your leaves show signs of yellowing between veins it may be due to magnesium deficiency or the over use of potassium feeds. As a cure foliar feed with epsom salts solution in summer. I also start with an epsom soil feed in early spring.
  • On chalky soil it may be worth giving a feed of sequestered iron in the form of sequestrene.
  • Mulch around the canes with well-rotted manure but don’t bury the canes. This feeds and helps retain moisture both essential for good fruit. I also mulch and water in summer.
  • Prepare the soil for new plants by deep digging adding well rotted compost and a slow release fertiliser such as bone meal.

Good luck with your cropping this year. May you pick enough raspberries to feed your daily portion needs with some leftover  to freeze or turn into jam

 

Heart of the February Veg Plot

Heart of the February Veg Plot


Purple sprouting broccoli is coming along nicely. It has been occupying the ground for quite some time and has a lax habit needing more space. The old sprout stalks are ready to be dug out (they are too firmly in the ground just to pull out). They take less space and produce more food per square yard than broccoli which is consistently good at our greengrocer. A tip for this years growing plans – more sprouts firmly planted and well staked.

Kale is now flowering and running to seed. I am less keen on this vegetable so the plants get no tlc. The purple leaved version that I grew from a mixed packet of seed was worthwhile for its individuality. I am not a brassica free growing garden but I wont be rushed into cabbages just at the moment so my 5 a day will be sprouts.

Ecological Disaster in My Garden

Ecological Disaster in My Garden

My garden helps some wild life but I recognise eco-disasters are all my fault when I consider how I am contributing to environmental problems. I do try make adjustments to my consumption of resources but in reality it is a net failure.

Some of my 2020 ecological  disasters

  • I use a lot of water with 2 outside taps, 2 very small ponds, 2 equally small water butts and lots and lots of hand watering.
  • Plant miles created by me have hitherto been quite excessive. I drive to garden centers on a regular basis buying plants that have probably been raise abroad in electrically enhanced hothouse conditions then driven 100’s of miles to market.Packaging will generally be in plastic pots or some similar wrapping
  • Most of the seeds I buy are in multicoloured packets and contents are progressively fewer in number.
  • This year there are no frogs visible in my main pond despite early frog spawn. Do adult frogs find it too hard to get out of the water from this plastic molded version that replaced a leaky cement home made version. Either that or the major temperature changes this year have had an effect.
  • Dare I admit I use peat!

  • It may be unfair to blame corvid for the weather which confused lots of plants with an early dry summer, sharp frosts, droughts and then torrents of rain. On balance flowering plants have held their own with my patio roses managing three good flushes so far!
  • Htdrangeas did less well and I allowed perennial sweet peas to grow through the shrubs for a bit of colour.
  • Delphiniums failed but first early potatoes did well

English Walled Kitchen Gardens

English Walled Kitchen Gardens

Walled gardens make great spaces for your special kitchen garden. Traditionally associated with larger estates, country houses and stately homes many were designed to provide a continual supply of fresh fruit, flowers and vegetables for the ‘big house’. It is the micro climate that walled gardens induce thus creating the facility to grow more exotic fruit trees against walls or with the aide of heated glasshouses.

There are many more discrete kitchen gardens where you can model your own food producing plot with ideas in this National Trust book. Even one well situated wall can provide shelter climbing space and support within a kitchen garden.

 

Book Cover

Making Mulch not Compost

Making Mulch not Compost

I know I can use all sorts of materials as a mulch but I like the organic versions. Here I have piled it high well before it is ready as a mulch much less a compost

To help me with another problem, that of too much compost, I am going to try combining the two issues to solve both problems and use partially rotted compost as mulch. I have 3 large compost bins and a wheely bin for large wooden items but due to 2020 output this capacity has been far too little. Thankfully I can now book a slot at the council waste refuse site to take my tree stumps and larger items.

Mulch v Compost Issues

  • I need to be wary of seed infestations as the mulch has not had time to generate enough heat to kill off annual weeds.
  • I also hope to benefit from disturbing rats because they seem to have taken a liking to my compost that often generally kitchen waste.
  • It my be just my feelings but I like organic much to be damp and able to hold moisture. This means mulchable compost is good for the soil & (soul).
Rabbit Pests not Pets

Rabbit Pests not Pets

The best place for rabbits, if it is not in a pie, is in the wild meadows and byways of the countryside. There they can do as their mum tells them and ‘eat up their greens’. As a vegetarian this is what rabbits do and that is why gardeners start to worry about them eating cultivated greens.

Literary Rabbits

  • Peter Rabbit  sneaks into Mr. McGregor’s garden to eat as many vegetables as he can before Mr. McGregor tries to catch him. Peter manages to escape as other rabbits do in my garden.
  • Then there is the image of Bugs Bunny eating a never-ending carrot. What a way to encourage kids to become gardeners.
  • Tar-Baby is about a doll made of tar and turpentine used by  Br’er Fox to trap Br’er Rabbit. The more that Br’er Rabbit fights the Tar-Baby the more entangled he becomes:- a modern metaphor?  This is not a recommended control method for gardeners.
  • White Rabbit is a  character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland wearing a waistcoat like many gardeners from that era.
  • Roger Rabbit and Jessica bred a film franchise as quickly as rabbits seem to do when feeding on lettuce.

Rabbit prevention Tips